Purported Cure-All Juice Maker Must Face Suit
(CN) - A recidivist scammer must face a class action alleging it falsely advertises a pricey "super juice" as a cure for cancer, Alzheimer's and heart disease, a federal judge ruled.
Lisa Pontrelli filed a putative class action against MonaVie Inc. and MonaVie LLC in New Jersey last year, alleging that they cannot deliver the promised curative results after charging "outrageously inflated" prices for their exotic fruit juices.
The Utah-based manufacturers allegedly advertise that the acai berry can prevent blood clots, arteriosclerosis and Alzheimer's, while improving circulation, mental focus, stamina, sleep, digestion and sexual function, in addition to the outstanding healing properties imbued in 17 other fruity ingredients.
One testimonial allegedly says less than a full bottle the Acai Active Blend totally relieved pain in a customer suffering with degenerative arthritis for 20 years.
And after undergoing "major surgery to repair a completely crushed pelvis," another customer "stopped all my medications and replaced them with Açai Active Blend ... before three weeks had gone by all of my pain had vanished," MonaVie allegedly advertised.
MonaVie also posted a YouTube video in which a purported MD said the product can ease cancer pain and even reverse the disease in some cases, according to the complaint, which goes on to allege that the company website says the juice can manage diabetes and headaches, and prevent morning sickness.
But MonaVie's chief science officer and the purported creator of the juice, Ralph Carson, cautioned that the drink was "expensive flavored water," and that "any claims made are purely hypothetical, unsubstantiated and, quite frankly, bogus," according to the complaint.
MonaVie CEO and cofounder Dallin Larsen meanwhile admitted that the products do not cure any diseases, the consumers claim. Carson and Larsen are not defendants in the case.
The complaint claims that MonaVie tries to avoid liability for the outlandish claims by paying "independent" distributors who lack training in science or nutrition to sell the juices.
Larson used the same multilevel marketing scheme for another "superfood" health drink called Royal Tongan Limu, according to the complaint. Consumers claim that the FDA ordered his company, Dynamic Essentials, to cease manufacturing that drink after finding no proof for the product's therapeutic benefits.
Pontrelli seeks to represent all those who purchased MonaVie juice products from 2007 to present, typically in 25-ounce bottles individually priced at $40 or more. She seeks an injunction and punitive damages for fraud, consumer fraud and unjust enrichment.
U.S. District Judge William Martini refused to dismiss the first amended complaint last week, saying the claims have been plausibly alleged.